Now up to State Govt to sign on
By DAVID MOASE
WORK on the Bonville deviation could begin before the end of the 2005/2006 financial year if the NSW Government agrees to sign the AusLink agreement, according to member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker.
The deviation would bypass the section of the highway that has been the site of five fatalities in the past two months, including the death of a 21-year-old in a head-on collision on Sunday night.
Mr Hartsuyker hopes the 9.6-kilometre stretch of roadway will be one of the first projects under a new 10-year funding agreement between the State and Federal governments.
The Federal Government has promised funding as part of its AusLink program for transport infrastructure but the money will not become available until the NSW Government agrees to the plan.
The current 10-year funding agreement will end on June 30, 2006, and Mr Hartsuyker said he would love to see building work at Bonville start today.
"If they don't have a schedule of works in place very soon they will not be able to call for tenders to do the building work," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"The signing of the AusLink agreement needs to happen so the new funding agreement can start from July 1, 2006.
"Ideally, work at Bonville could start before then and the first payment could be made on July 1, 2006.
"It is in everyone's interest for the State Government to sign the agreement so work can start as quickly as possible."
Progress towards signing of the agreement has been in danger of stalling as a result of recent changes within the Federal and State cabinets.
Both John Anderson, the former Federal transport minister, and Michael Costa, the former State roads minister, have moved on from their portfolios, and while they enjoyed a good working relationship, no-one is yet sure how their respective replacements ? Warren Truss and Joe Tripodi ? will get along.
Mr Hartsuyker said discussions between the ministers would be held shortly.
Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser said he had written to Mr Tripodi to ask for a meeting about the Pacific Highway and to invite the new minister to the electorate.
"Sunday's accident emphasises the need for better traffic separation in town and on the highway," Mr Fraser said.